Texas law allows you to evict a tenant due to pets when they violate your lease agreement’s stated pet policy. There are situations, however, where an eviction action may be illegal. As a landlord, it is important that you know the difference so that you handle any pet issue legally.
When Can You Legally Initiate an Eviction Due to Pets?
Under Texas law, you can evict a tenant for violating a provision of the lease agreement. Some leases completely prohibit pets on the rental property. Other leases allow tenants to keep pets on the premises, but only certain types. Or, only after registering the pet with management and paying a pet deposit.
Any pet that is kept in violation of the lease is an unauthorized pet in violation of your pet policy. It doesn’t matter whether your tenant is keeping the pet temporarily or indefinitely. A lease violation is grounds for eviction.
What Should You Do to Ensure You Can Legally Evict a Tenant?
To ensure your right to evict a tenant due to pets, have your standard lease agreements clearly state your pet policy. A good pet policy will protect your property, abide by your insurance policy, and provide for your tenants’ safety.
Your pet policy should, first, provide whether pets are allowed, and, if so, under which circumstances. If pets are allowed, your pet policy could limit them to certain types and sizes. It could also require that all animals be registered with management. To pay for fixing damage from pets, your pet policy should require payment of a non-refundable pet deposit.
Most importantly, your lease’s pet policy should provide what happens if an unauthorized pet is discovered in your rental. It should state that a violation of the pet policy is considered a breach of contract and grounds for eviction. If you’re open to it, clearly outline the fines that you’ll assess and how many warnings you’ll give before evicting.
Before signing the lease, your tenants should read and understand your pet policy. You should also schedule quarterly visits to the property to perform routine maintenance and inspection. If your tenant expects you to visit your property regularly, they will not be as likely to keep unauthorized pets.
When Can’t You Pursue an Eviction Due to Pets?
Under federal law, you cannot evict a tenant if their pet serves as a service or companion animal. A tenant could have a physician-verified medical need for a service or therapy animal. They could also need a companion animal to provide comfort and emotional support.
The federal Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make “reasonable accommodations” for tenants with a service or companion animal. Federal law does not consider service or companion animals as pets. So, your pet policy does not apply to them. This means that you must allow service or companion animals to stay with your tenant.
Though you can’t evict tenants with service animals for violating your pet policy, you can protect yourself in other ways. You can require that tenants provide you a doctor’s note verifying they are disabled and need a service animal. You can also ask the tenants to provide you verification that their animal is healthy and vaccinated.
What Should You Do When Your Tenant Has an Unauthorized Pet?
If you find that your tenant is keeping an unauthorized pet, you should adhere strictly to your pet policy. Also, if the lease allows you to assess a fine, collect the fine. If the lease makes violating your pet policy a breach of contract, send the tenant an eviction notice. You should sent this “Notice to Vacate” as soon as you discover the violation.
Under state law, the tenant has three days to move out from the date of receiving the notice. If the tenant stays on the property after the three days, then move forward with the eviction.
Contact a North Richland Hills TX Eviction Lawyer Today
If you suspect your tenant of keeping an animal in violation of your pet policy, speak to an eviction lawyer. The experienced North Richland Hills TX eviction attorneys at Girling Law, PLLC can guide you through the process of legally initiating an eviction due to pets. Contact us today.